Brendan Duke: Puns ahoy as I saddle up for the weekend’s racing

Brendan Duke gives us an account of his week, and looks ahead to the weekend's racing...


Monday was National Pun Day. So it’s only right that they should be celebrated. Unfortunately, for as long as I can remember puns usually result in groans from the audience.

But we must remember that comic fashion, like most trends, is cyclical. The secret to being a trendsetter is to wear/do the same things until they inevitably have their moment. This isn’t completely foolproof: the tunic in my wardrobe seems increasingly unlikely to see the light of day but I confidently predict the rise of the pun will happen any day now. All my years of practice will pay off in spades.

Expect me to be inundated with invitations to the most glamorous parties. The ladies at these parties will be so overcome with laughter that they will lose the run of themselves. Quite possibly requesting that I hold their underwear while they compose themselves. In homage to Monday and to ensure my punship is ready for battle I will be throwing a few into this week’s preview. Hopefully throw in a couple of winners too…

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Undoubtedly the highlight of the weekend, indeed one of the races of the season thus far, is the Ascot Chase (3.35pm). Three potential stars in Top Notch, Coney Island and Waiting Patiently lock horns. Eternal soldier Cue Card adds further lustre. It’s hard to see Colin Tizzard’s charge holding off all three and expect the baton to be passed. Who takes it is another matter – little separates them in ratings or betting terms. It’s very hard to have a strong opinion and is probably a race to watch. If forced to have a bet, Waiting Patiently makes marginal appeal at odds of 11/4.

The Reynoldstown Novice Chase (1.50pm) looks a good heat too. The two penalised runners Black Corton and Ms Parfois justifiably top the betting. Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman they say. Not for the Parfois though. She has gone from strength to strength. Accurate jumping is her greatest asset: Ascot, arguably the stiffest fencing test in the country, should suit her ideally. At 3/1 she looks a more than fair price.

The 3pm race at Ascot sees the seasonal bow of Dream Berry. Highly progressive last season, he went agonisingly close in two hot spring festival handicaps at Aintree and Punchestown. Having gone well fresh in the past and with the meat of the currant season only weeks away I expect him to go very close to winning here.

Gowran Park also has a potential cracker on. At time of writing it seems possible that Douvan, Our Duke and Presenting Percy could all show up in the Red Mills Chase (2pm). Again a watching brief is advised. Hopefully Douvan, the highest-rated horse in training, can get back to something like his best. If he wins the dream Queen Mother clash with Altior could still happen.

Navan hogs the limelight on Sunday. The Ten Up Novice Chase (4pm) has some interesting entries. My hunch is that the first three home from last month’s dramatic race at Naas will all renew rivalry. All are vulnerable. Jury Duty may not quite see out 3 miles on winter ground. Moulin A Vent needs to jump better and Livelovelaugh was put in his place at Naas and will struggle to reverse form.

Title-chasing Gordon Elliot will almost certainly want more than one string to his bow here. The conditions of the race favour Monbeg Notorious and he should take his chance. Connections clearly expected a biggie in the Thyestes. Hammered in the betting the horse didn’t let them down: going off clear favourite, he romped home by 11 lengths. While it’s unlikely the bookies will miss him, he will take all the beating here.

Willie Mullins dominates the entries for the Boyne Hurdle. As with Douvan it’s to be hoped that the real Vroum Vroum Mag shows up. If so she will win. We can then look forward to this lady in pink giving Apples Jade all she can handle in the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Finally the 3.25pm looks a good chance for Drumconnor Lad to get off the mark for the season. He’s also entered at Gowran on Saturday but this looks a slightly easier option. He should win if taking up this engagement.

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What do you think?